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Kitchen redo gives Red Lobster new options

Red Lobster points to the 10 dishes it introduced this month as a preview of what the seafood giant can produce now that it’s completed a $51 million kitchen overhaul.

The new selections include five plates of tasting-sized portions, which average $4.99. Shrimp and lobster figure into several, including a Petite Lobster Roll, shrimp pot stickers and Yucatan Shrimp, a pair of shrimp roasted in chili-lime sauce and garnished with carmelized pineapple. An all-vegetable selection, broccoli drizzled with hot “dragon sauce” and topped with fried chili peppers, is included in the mix.

New entrees include shrimp spiced with the dragon sauce, Southwestern-style tacos and tilapia served with the Yucatan Shrimp.

Although the ingredients may not be new, the dishes reflect the prep enhancements afforded by new kitchen equipment and back-of-house technology, says Red Lobster President Salli Setta. She calls the renovation “the most comprehensive change ever in our kitchens.”

The added apparatus include new saute stations and lobster and crab pots. The equipment was specially designed to cook seafood, says Setta, who has a background in menu development. She notes that back-of-house staff is now able to cook more items a la minute.

The back of house was also retrofitted with kitchen display systems to improve coordination in the preparation of a meal, yielding shorter ticket times. “It also gives our managers real-time status on all orders,” Setta notes.

Efficiencies were also boosted by the switch to a “one-kitchen model,” she continues. “All our heart-of-house employees are cross-trained and can work in multiple positions. And, we added a new role on the line called a quarterback, to improve communication and line flow.”

The operational enhancements “improved ticket times while significantly reducing labor waste.”

“The new menu gives us the opportunity to show off the capabilities of our new kitchens and the culinary talent of our people,” says Setta. “We simplified our menu, while at the same time added new menu items.”

New dishware was rolled out to showcase the seafood, she added.

The next step for Red Lobster is adopting a table management system that will enable customers to remotely put their names on a wait list and check their status. The system will also provide text paging. The approach is a quantum leap from a one-time casual-dining standard that Red Lobster pioneered, where patrons could call ahead and place their name on the list of waiting guests before they left home.

Also planned for rollout is a remote ordering system that integrates directly into Red Lobster’s POS system, according to Setta.

In addition, “we are testing new ways to reduce the square footage of our kitchens in our new restaurant prototypes,” she says.

The new kitchen has been retrofitted into the 704 Red Lobsters in the United States and Canada.

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